Neottia cordata (L.) Rich. - Lesser Twayblade

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae

Lesser Twayblade


This tiny orchid, formerly better known as Listera cordata, is extremely difficult to find not just because of its diminutive size, but also because it grows in shady, humid sites between or underneath taller plants including Heather and Bilberry.

Lesser Twayblade in flower

Once found the orchid is unmistakeable. The tiny star-like flowers and stem of the plant are flushed with red. Close to the base there are two heart-shaped leaves which face each other on opposite sides of the stem. The name twayblade refers to the pair of heart-shaped leaves (two blades) near the base of the plant. The flower spike is usually between 5 and 10 cm tall.


In the UK this orchid is most common in Scotland but is also found in northern England, North Wales and parts of Ireland. Its world range is throughout the northern hemisphere in Europe, Asia and North America where we photographed its close relative the Western Heart-flowered Twayblade in the Rocky Mountains.


The Lesser Twayblade is found in moorland, bogs and other mossy places and occasionally in pine forests. It is very hard to locate but once one is found there are usually more plants in the immediate vicinity.

Flowering Times

Lesser Twayblade flowers in May and June.

Neottia cordata icloseup of flowers

Taxonomic history

When Carl Linnaeus described this orchid in his Species Plantarum of 1753, he gave it the scientiic name Ophrys cordata. The currently-accepted scientific name Neottia cordata (L.) Rich. dates from an 1817 publication by the French botanist Louis Claude Marie Richard (1754 - 1821).


The genus name Neottia means 'nest',a reference to the tangled root structure of orchids in this genus. The specific epithet cordata means 'heart shaped' and refers to the shape of the leaves.

Reference sources

The Plant List

Sue Parker (2023) Wild Orchids of Wales - how, when and where to find them; First Nature e-book (Amazon Kindle format)

Anne and Simon Harrap (2005) Orchids of Britain and Ireland; A&C Black

Pierre Delforge (2005) Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; A&C Black

Den Nordiska Floran (1992) Bo Mossberg, Stefan Ericsson and Lennart Stenberg; Wahlstrom & Widstrand


This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Elaine Hagget. and Rob Petley-Jones.

Sue Parker's latest ebook is a revised and enlarged edition of Wild Orchids in The Burren. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

Sue Parker's new ebook is a comprehensive and fully revised edition of her acclaimed field guide to the Wild Orchids of Wales. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

Sue Parker's 5-star acclaimed field guide to the Wild Orchids of the Algarve is now available as an ebook. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

Please Help Us: If you have found this information interesting and useful, please consider helping to keep First Nature online by making a small donation towards the web hosting and internet costs.

Any donations over and above the essential running costs will help support the conservation work of Plantlife, the Rivers Trust and charitable botanic gardens - as do author royalties and publisher proceeds from books by Pat and Sue.

© 1995 - 2024 First Nature: a not-for-profit volunteer-run resource

Please help to keep this free resource online...

Terms of use - Privacy policy - Disable cookies - Links policy